ANC Youth League Message On The Centenary Of The African National Congress

  1. The African National Congress Youth League celebrates 100 years anniversary of the African National Congress, which will be officially celebrated by millions of the people of South Africa, Africa and the world on the 8th of January 2012. The 100 years existence of the ANC is a phenomenon that should be celebrated because as an organisation, the ANC has not only defined the history of South Africa, but has shaped its destiny and carries a responsibility to consolidate on the gains that have been made thus far. Most importantly, the ANC Youth League celebrates the ANC as a leader of all progressive liberation forces in South Africa throughout the history of anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles;
  2. As revolutionary youth wing of the ANC, the ANC Youth League celebrates the massive contributions made by the youth in the struggle to overthrow white minority domination, repression and illegal, illegitimate, and criminal rule over the black majority. It is a known and accepted reality that throughout its existence, young people in the ANC played not only a critical role, but the most decisive in various phases of the development and growth of the ANC. Our organisation, the African National Congress is a living proof that the ideas of the youth and their actions are the ones that best shape history than any other component of society;
  3. From all quarters and historians, it is now a reality that the idea of founding the African National Congress is attributed to Pixley Ka Isaka Seme, yet he only became its 5th President, 18 years after the formation of the ANC. In the article published in the ANC Today in October 2009, it is said that "there is no doubt that Pixely ka Isaka Seme was the originator of the idea to found the ANC and he tirelessly worked to ensure its fruition, arguably more than anyone else". Many other observations have come to the conclusion that Pixley played a critical role in the formation and early ideological development of the African National Congress;
  4. Pixley ka lsaka Seme was only 31 years old when the African National Congress was formed in 1912, yet at the age, he was able to gather and give ideological direction to the middle class intellectuals, renowned Africans, and royalties from as far as Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Zambia and those of tribes and kingdoms from within South Africa, and included Kings, Princes, Paramount Chiefs and Chiefs who attended the launch of the ANC in January 8, 1912. What this means is that the ANC was founded by ideas of youth and only got to later adopt conservative strategies of struggles because the older generations was used to the older way of doing things;
  5. In celebrating 100 years of the ANC´s existence, there is every reason to celebrate and commemorate the role of the ANC Youth League, because the history of South Africa's political, social and economic change cannot be told without mentioning the vital role of the ANC YOUTH LEAGUE. For the benefit of all of all South Africans, the people of Africa and the world maybe we should start from the beginning and speak in great detail about the correct history of the ANC YL in the 100 years existence of the ANC. It is important that we do so, because many amongst us and in society believe that the ANC YL was only formed after the unbanning of political parties and release of political prisoners in 1990;
  6. The ANC's idea of forming the ANCYL began in the early 1 940s, as a result of young people's impatience with the manner in which the ANC and the entire National Liberation Movement responded to apartheid repression. Young people said then that they are tired with peaceful resistance and struggles, which recognised and respected the oppressor and the colonial masters. It is a reality that whilst relatively progressive, the methods the ANC had adopted to oppose apartheid and achieve an equal society was not revolutionary. It was not revolutionary because there was no intention to overthrow the system, but there was a dedicated effort for inclusion into the system by the ANC leadership;
  7. The Youth in the ANC said it could never be correct that the most progressive activity of the ANC was sending of petitions and delegations to the Queen in Britain, asking for some rights within the semi-colonial Union of South Africa. Mxolisi Majombozi came with the idea of radicalising the ANC, through formation of the ANC Youth League, which will give new energy and fighting spirit to the National Liberation Movement. To realise this idea, Mxolisi Majombozi was supported by other young people in the ANC, notably Comrades Walter Sisulu, Anton Lembede, William Nkomo, Oliver Tambo, and many others;
  8. In 1942, the ANC Conference noted the growing militancy amongst the Youth and resolved that the Congress Youth League should be formed to mobilise young people behind the banner of the ANC, somewhat not considering that the young generation, inspired by the struggles of the workers in South Africa at the time, will not only mobilise behind the vision of the ANC, but will influence a radical change of its character and outlook as a Liberation Movement. In 1943, the ANC took another resolution to form the ANC Youth League and concretely mandated the National Executive Committee of the ANC to take concrete action on the formation of the ANC Youth League;
  9. A provisional committee of the ANCYL was formed in early 1944 with William Nkomo as its Chairperson, Mxolisi Majombozi as Secretary, and Wafter Sisulu and Congress Mbatha were Co-Convenors. We are aware that former President of the ANC J.T Gumede fully supported the formation of the ANC Youth League, arguing in the 1943 Conference of the ANC that the formation of the ANC Youth League will make the ANC to live forever. We will always hold President J.T Gumede in high regard for his ground breaking and inspiring leadership;
  10. In September 10, 1944, the ANC Youth League was officially launched as an organisation in Bantu Social Centre, Johannesburg and elected Anton Lembede as its first President and Oliver Tambo as its first Secretary. Walter Sisulu was elected as the first Treasurer of the ANC Youth League, Robert Sobukwe, Congress Mbatha, A.P. Mda, Robert Resha, Duma Nokwe and Nelson Mandela were part of those elected to the first National Executive Committee. We should clarify here that Nelson Mandela or Walter Sisulu were not the first National Secretaries of the ANC Youth League, Comrade Oliver Tambo was;
  11. The ANC was not always a fighting revolutionary movement until the idea and practice to form the ANC YL in the early to and mid 1940s. The formation of the ANC YL undoubtedly gave new impetus, energised and radicalised the ANC into a fighting force tor the liberation of the oppressed majority. If the reading of history was mechanical, it could be simplistically deducted that the transformation of the ANC into a truly national organisation of the people, and the formation of the alliance are direct consequences of the formation of the ANC Youth League in 1944. Yet history evolves in far much complex and systematic realities than that, because the combination of prevailing material conditions of that period and the subjective determination of the founding leadership of the ANC Youth League dialectically called for decisive action and defined history;
  12. The generation that founded the ANC Youth League (Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, William Nkomo, Mxolisi Majombozi, Anton Lembede, Congress Mbatha) declared ‘FREEDOM IN OUR LIFETIME’ in 1944 and 50 years later in 1994, they were a generation that ushered in political freedom to the African majority, which were under colonial and apartheid repression for more many years. Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu who are the founder of the ANC Youth League were at the forefront of ushering political freedom in South Africa;
  13. 13.  We have no doubt that Anton Lembede, A.P. Mda, Mxolisi Majombozi, Godfrey Pitjie, Robert Resha, Patrick Moaloa, David Bopape, Godfrey Pitjie, and many other who founded and led the ANC Youth League would have been at the forefront of political liberation had they lived long. We always say that it only took the ANC Youth League 5 years to radicalise and energise the African National Congress into a mass movement and fighting force for people's liberation. Within the first five years of its formation, the ANC Youth League was able to decisively influence the ANC to adopt a more radical, forthright and confrontational political programme which fundamentally transformed the ANC into a mass mobilisation movement and campaigner against racial segregation and economic subjugation;
  14. The transformative 1949 ANC Conference had to elect a relatively inexperienced and young leadership of President James Moroka (who had just joined the ANC) and Secretary General Walter Sisulu (aged 37) because the older and more organisationally experienced generation was unable to adjust and adapt to the new strategies and tactics proposed by the Youth League to fight racial oppression and segregation;
  15. The 1949 Programme of Action led to the Defiance Campaign, which goes into history as one of the most successful campaigns to be led by the African National Congress. Recalling the fruits of the Defiance Campaign, E.S. Reddy says, "the Campaign generated a mass upsurge for freedom. The membership of the A.N.C. increased from 7,000 to 100,000 during the campaign and it became a truly national organization of the people. The Campaign also led to the formation of the Coloured People's Congress and the Congress of (white) Democrats, and then a "Congress Alliance" which played a crucial role in promoting multi-racial resistance to apartheid in subsequent years";
  16. Certainly, the passage of time spelled a different trajectory with regards to how the Youth League relates to the African National Congress, yet notably the ANC Youth League's founding generation's commitment to "freedom in our lifetime" took practical shape and was led by that particular generation. It is important to understand that the founding generation of the ANC YL was not only fighting for political freedom, but were also fighting against ideological, social, economic domination and colonisation of the majority by a minority;
  17. It is this realisation that made the founding generation of the ANC YL to fervently mobilise for the adoption of the Freedom Charter, first by the People's Congress in 1955 and by the ANC in 1956. Comrade Nelson Mandela was Volunteer in Chief in the Defiance campaign and the mobilisations towards the adoption of the Freedom Charter was anchored and given shape by then ANC Secretary General Walter Sisulu;
  18. The Freedom Charter is currently the nerve and lifeblood of the African National Congress and entire National Liberation Movement. When adopting the Freedom Charter in 1956, the ANC said that its not a patchwork of reforms, but a revolutionary programme, which is also a beacon of hope for the people of South Africa. The Freedom Charter affirms that South Africa belongs who live in it-black and white, and this affirmation in repeated in South Africa's democratic Constitution adopted in 1996;
  19. Under the clause "the people shall share in the country's wealth", the Freedom Charter says:
    "The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; "The Mineral Wealth Beneath the Soil, the banks and Monopoly Industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people"
    "All other trade and industry shall be controlled for the benefit of the people" "All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions";
  20. As much as the Nelson Mandela generation led the struggle for attainment of political freedom for majority of our people, we have made it our responsibility and dedicated focus that economic freedom is realised in South Africa. Economic Freedom should come through the realisation and actualisation of the Freedom Charter clause that reads that the Mineral Wealth beneath the soil, monopoly industry and banks should be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole';
  21. The Nelson Mandela generation of the ANC Youth League changed history and did everything in their power to ensure that the cause for struggle is never betrayed, nor compromised for anything below the sky. The founding generation dedicated their lives to the cause for freedom and were prepared to sacrifice their lives so that we can all live in freedom. Their battle cry was FREEDOM IN OURLIFETIME, underpinned by the dedication to attain Freedom or Die. Our battle cry as this generation of youth is attainment of ECONOMIC FREEDOM IN OUR LIFETIME. Like Nelson Mandela, we will do everything in power to realise economic freedom in our lifetime;
  22. Oliver Tambo was elected into the ANC National Executive Committee at the age of 31 in 1948, became its Secretary General at the age of 38 in 1955 and Deputy President at the age of 41 in 1958. First President of the ANC Youth League, Anton Muziwakhe Lembede was directly elected to the ANC National Executive Committee at the age of 31 in 1945. Nelson Mandela was elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC at the age of 32 in 1950 and became President of the ANC Youth League and that of the ANC in the entire Transvaal at the age of 34 in 1952. He was by then the Volunteer in Chief of the Defiance Campaign, a campaign that played the most important role in defining the mass character of the African National Congress;
  23. Young people in the ANC played a critical role in the mobilisation of all South Africans towards the Congress of the People, which adopted the Freedom Charter in 26 June 1955. The Freedom Charter remains the beacon of hope for the people of South Africa and the most important mobiliser and organiser of all formations to resist colonial-cum-apartheid domination and repression. The Freedom Charter reflects the kind of society the African National Congress plans to construct;
  24. The leadership of the ANC Youth League was part of those who were arrested in Treason Trial, and never disappeared when the Movement was facing massive difficulties. The founding generation of the ANC Youth League was at the Rivonia Trial and were the main protagonist, because they were propelled by the ideals they developed in the ANC Youth league. The ANC YL former President Patrick Molaoa was part of a dedicated contingent which fought in the Spolile Campaign in 1968, and lost his life fighting for the emancipation of the people of South Africa. The young Chris Hani mobilised young revolutions with intentions to revitalise and giving new energy to liberation fighters in a process which led to the 1969 Morogoro Conference;
  25. The 1976 generation led a very militant struggle against the nonsensical and brutal apartheid regime in a manner and bravery which remains unparalleled to this day. The young lions generation under the leadership of Peter Mokaba ran South Africa ungovernable and incubated energy to the struggle for liberation thus leaving the apartheid regime with no option but to negotiate. During negotiations, the ANC YL gave the additional energy and zest to the negotiation process, in a manner which illustrated to the apartheid regime that young people are ready to continue the fight for liberation and total independence of South Africa;
  26. Post democratic dispensation, the ANC YL has been the only organisation at the forefront of instituting youth development into mainstream work of government, civil society and the private sector. The betterment of South Africa´s youth has and continues to be our primary pre-occupation;
  27. When the ANC was almost diverted from its historical obligation to lead South Africans by a faction, which abused State institutions against contending voices, the ANC YL was at the forefront of defending the ANC and the rule of law. The ANC YL led a clear and determined political programme to revitalise the ANC and elect new in the 52nd National Conference in Polokwane. That change was necessary, like all changes in the immediate and distant future will be necessary in the ANC;
  28. We are mentioning all these realities because this generation of young activists should appreciate that the revolutionary programme we are pursuing, "economic freedom in our lifetime" will not be left to some older people who seem to have accepted that the massive wealth inequalities cannot be changed. The reason they go to the Queen to account and report is because they believe that such is the only way to do things even with the political power that was given to them by the people of South Africa;
  29. The current generation of the ANC Youth League is also playing its part in the African National Congress. Whilst appreciating the ANC Youth League's role of mobilising the youth behind the vision of the ANC, and championing their interests, this generation has politically and organisationally repositioned the ANC Youth League to play the role of the Youth League of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and Anton Lembede. The Youth League is politically and ideologically sound, committed and militant, and consistently raising critical issues that relate to socio-economic transformation. The ANC Youth League is leading almost all key ideological and political questions in the South African economy on issues of economic transformation, social transformation, education, social cohesion, and a non-racial South Africa under construction and the challenges thereof;
  30. The political programme of the ANC Youth League in the centenary of the ANC and beyond is summed up as that of attainment of “ECONOMIC FREEDOM IN OUR LIFETIME’. This simply means that all the economic clauses of the Freedom Charter should be given practical meaning and implemented in our lifetime. The people sharing in the country´s wealth should not just be a clarion call, but should be turned into a concrete programme, which includes Nationalisation of Mines, banks and monopoly industries. Perspectives in that regard are developed;
  31. This generation of the ANC Youth League carries a responsibility to defend the freedom charter and ensure that all its aims and objectives are realised and implemented. Efforts to undermine the meaning of the freedom charter should be isolated from the ANC, and should not even be supported for leadership responsibilities from within the organisation. This is a matter the ANC Youth League should not be ashamed of because reality is that the ANC requires determined and ideologically clear adherents and proponents of the Freedom Charter to take us forward. Those who continue to account to imperialist forces should be isolated from the organisation because they have potential to undermine our future;
  32. What members should appreciate is that all the issues we are raising on economic freedom in our lifetime are elementary to the success of the revolution and continued support for the ANC. This programme constitutes our future and we should do everything to defend the principles because this generation will inherit the ANC which cannot blame past injustices for massive inequalities and suffering of our people. Our generation will have to take full responsibility on why young people do not have jobs and why there are no proper houses for all our people;
  33. So in summary, attainment of economic freedom in our lifetime means that we should do everything we can to make sure that the ANC government utilises the mandate of the people to realise all the economic clauses of the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter is the strategic mission. The meaning of economic freedom in our lifetime means the attainment of all freedom charter objectives as urgent as possible. This is vital because the Freedom Charter is historically and currently the common programme of the entire National Liberation Movement and mobiliser of the people of South Africa on what should be the future;
  34. The vitality of the Freedom Charter in the Congress Movement cannot be overemphasised because it occupies a special space in the political development of South Africa. The Freedom Charter is the lifeblood of the Congress Movement and any attempt to replace it as a strategic vision has potential to turn the Congress alliance into a myopic formation. It is not only the replacement of the Freedom Charter which will impact on the ideological character of the Congress movement, but also attempts and actions that seek to give it a liberal interpretation;
  35. The Freedom Charter is the foundation of South Africa´s Constitution. The non-racial values espoused in South Africa´s Constitution are rooted in the Freedom Charter´s clarion call that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. The bill of rights echoes the values espoused in the freedom charter and all Constitution´s commitment to build sustainable livelihoods and decent life for all the people is derived from the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter continues to be the beacon of hope for the people of South Africa and cannot be replaced for anything else;
  36. The vitality and centrality of the Freedom Charter in the National Liberation Movement cannot be undermined, nor neglected for whatever reason. The freedom charter´s clause on economic transformation begins with a clarion call that “the people shall share in the country´s wealth’. This notion is not vague and is properly explained in the clauses that follow, which categorically state;
  37. “The national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall be restored to the people; the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; all other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people; all people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions;
  38. The most correct interpretation of this clause is the one given by President Nelson Mandela in 1956, that, “It is true that in demanding the nationalisation of the banks, the gold mines and the land the Charter strikes a fatal blow at the financial and gold-mining monopolies and farming interests that have for centuries plundered the country and condemned its people to servitude. But such a step is absolutely imperative and necessary because the realisation of the Charter is inconceivable, in fact impossible, unless and until these monopolies are first smashed up and the national wealth of the country turned over to the people. The breaking up and democratisation of these monopolies will open up fresh fields for the development of a prosperous Non-European bourgeois class’;
  39. The interpretation of the Freedom Charter by President Nelson Mandela is correct because it illustrates that whilst the freedom charter calls for nationalisation, it does not call for holus bolus (generalised) nationalisation, where everything is under the control and ownership of the State. The Freedom Charter, as stated in many perspectives of the ANC and entire National Liberation Movement is a programme which should necessarily lead to nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy, i.e. Mines, banks and monopoly industries. When these are under the control and ownership of the people as a whole, then all other private individuals shall have the rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions;
  40. In essence, this entails that under the Freedom Charter envisaged society, the State, which justly claims authority because it is based on the will of the people, should be in ownership and control of Strategic sectors of the economy and allow its citizens to enter into other trades and professions. The State should own the Mines, Banks and Monopoly Industries and allow for the development of industrial and manufacturing entrepreneurs who will create job opportunities for majority of the people. Because it will be in control of these strategic sectors of the economy, the State will also carry a responsibility of providing industrial and manufacturing entrepreneurs with easier access to raw materials; provide industrial development finance and other additional services such as efficient and durable transport, communications and energy infrastructure and systems, whilst maintaining and protecting the rule of law;
  41. The entire political programme should be understood within the characterisation of the ANC as “the strategic centre of power, the leader of the Alliance, a disciplined force of the left, and a mass movement with an internationalist and an anti-imperialist outlook’. The anti-imperialist outlook of the ANC should be understood in clear context because ‘Through the Eye of a Needle’ says the ANC is a champion of progressive internationalism and carries an obligation to “to work with progressive forces throughout the world to promote and defend our transformation, advance Africa´s renaissance and build a new world order’;
  42. This generation commits to do everything in its power to ensure that all the pillars of economic freedom in our lifetime are achieved. 100 years existence of the ANC should mean more determination and focus towards total attainment of all Freedom Charter objectives. Happy 100 Years ANC. The future looks bright because the ANC will lead the struggles for economic freedom in our lifetime. Amandla!

For more about the ANC Youth League, refer to

NGO Services

NGO Services

NGO Events